Group gives women the power to change their lives

When Rejoice Shumba lost her job as an executive secretary at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), her life as she’d known it seemed to be at an end.

“Women need more creativity in balancing work with onerous domestic responsibilities than men do.” – Sibusisiwe Bango, Proweb president.
“Women need more creativity in balancing work with onerous domestic responsibilities than men do.” – Sibusisiwe Bango, Proweb president.

Shumba, a single mother of three couldn’t sustain her family and lived in abject poverty until local women’s empowerment organisation Proweb came to her rescue. Shumba is part of a group of RBZ workers who were laid off by the central bank in 2008 and have been fighting to get their redundancy packages.

“When we were retrenched our exit packages took a long time to be processed and life was hard for me, considering that the economy was bad during that time,” says Shumba. “One of my pastors referred me to the Professional Women, Women Executives and Business Women’s Forum (Proweb) for assistance.

After hearing my story and going through my project proposal, Proweb gave me a loan of $10,000 to start a brick manufacturing venture at my plot in Ruwa. I used the money to buy manufacturing equipment from South Africa.”

Shumba says she started with a small workforce of 10, moulding bricks for domestic purposes. Since then, she’s bought technologically advanced machines that can produce as many as 2,000 standard bricks a day. She now employs more than 100 at her factory.

“Business has now grown. We are now supplying big companies and next year we will be venturing into tile making. We are also planning to penetrate the Zambian market with our products,” says Shumba.

She’s one of several women helped to a new life by Proweb, though its credit and saving scheme, which helps women from all walks of life get started in business ventures.

Proweb’s president Sibusisiwe Bango says her organisation spearheads economic empowerment through wealth creation, as well as recognising, nurturing and developing untapped talent among women.

The organisation was set up in 2005 when it was realised that the needs of women in a male dominated environment were rarely addressed.

“Women in such environments have to be innovative in dealing with the cultural prejudices that have evolved over generations. Women need more creativity in balancing work with onerous domestic responsibilities compared to male counterparts in similar positions,” says Bango, adding that true empowerment of women could only be achieved if the country’s laws were reviewed.

“Every law in this country was made to keep women in the kitchen. We are promoting research projects and programmes to identify areas where policy and legislative support or change is needed to ensure gender equality and equity,” says Bango.

“We have also initiated and supported investment policies and budgets that promote infrastructure investments that directly contribute to the empowerment of women and lessen domestic burdens traditionally carried by women and girls.”

The organisation last week launched a chapter in Bulawayo as well as an online directory profiling notable Zimbabwean women who have excelled in their professions, business and community.

Sithabile Mangwengwende, Proweb’s executive director, explains: “The women’s directory will provide a unique opportunity to learn from the success stories of accomplished women in Zimbabwe. It will also be a platform for a national and regional women’s network forum.”

Post published in: News
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